About That Tightening

As much as folks would like to dismiss the idea of a tightening as mere concern trolling, if you're on the lookout for it -- and I am -- you can find it in certain places. This isn't to send out a big Oh Noes! but rather to prepare for it in the event that a real tightening materializes; and hey, if it doesn't, no harm done.

So where do I see it?

First there's tonight's Reuters/Zogby tracking poll:

The race for President of the United States continued to tighten, as both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain lost ground in a contest that is now a four-point game, the latest Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby daily tracking telephone poll shows.

Obama lost 0.9 points and now stands at 49.0% in the tracking poll, while McCain lost 0.4 points and now stands at 44.7% support in a head-to-head match-up.

And there was Monday's R2000/DailyKos tracker, which had Barack's lead down to 8 points:

On successive individual days in the R2K poll (different than the topline, which is a combined three day sample), Obama was up +11 Friday, +9 Sat and +5 Sunday, with a +14 Thursday sample rolling off. Tomorrow's sample will repalce a +11, so further tightening is possible.

And on the state level, there was that North Carolina Public Policy Polling poll, which found that McCain gained a net 6 points in a week, reducing Obama's lead to 1 point:

The tightening over the last week can be tied back to North Carolina voters reverting more to their usual trends. Obama had pulled to within 55-39 with white voters, but McCain's advantage there is now back up to 60-36.

But those are just three isolated instances, which contribute to the larger picture but turn out not to be representative of what's truly happening with the determinative electoral vote map.

Nate Silver breaks it down:

John McCain is making no progress in his pursuit of the White House. Our model now projects Barack Obama to win 351 electoral votes to John McCain's 187, and to win the Electoral College 96.7 percent of the time to McCain's 3.3 percent. Both numbers are unchanged from yesterday.

This finding is based on a lack of movement toward McCain particularly in the state polling:

If the national polls are tightening, there is no evidence of it in the state numbers. [...]

If the state polls aren't showing movement toward McCain, then it is probably the case that any perceived movement in the national polls is sampling noise.

Which is a point Chris Bowers has made repeatedly:

The Pollster.com October chart shows that the month-long trend of Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening followed by Obama peaking followed by McCain tightening isn't really a trend at all. It has just been a month of statistical noise of Obama's national lead hovering around 7%. Even though the tracking polls are a bit tighter today than the last few days, I see no reason to believe that this stability has been broken, and that this is anything more than the latest McCain tightening (Saturday and Sunday) following an Obama peak (Tuesday through Friday) following a McCain tightening (the seven days before that) following an Obama peak (the five days before that).

Nate goes on:

If anything, in fact, the state polls are showing movement toward Obama on balance, not just in battleground states like Virginia, but also in non-battlegrounds as diverse as New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Arizona.

Precisely what MSNBC has found:

After moving the battlegrounds of Colorado and Virginia from Toss-up to Lean Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee now has crossed the 270 Electoral Vote threshold in NBC's electoral map. One week before the election, Obama leads McCain 286-163, up from his 264-163 advantage a week ago. As we pointed out on Friday, the significance of moving Colorado and Virginia into Obama's column is this: If Obama wins those two states, plus Nevada, he can still get to 270 -- even if he loses Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In addition to the Colorado and Virginia changes, we have moved McCain's home state of Arizona from Likely McCain to Lean McCain, a tip to the reality that Arizona, without McCain on the ticket, would have been a contested battleground.

But I think my favorite acknowledgment that Barack Obama continues to gain, particularly in the all important electoral college, is this entry on right-wing blog Race42008:

The trend keeps getting better and better for Obama... and time keeps growing shorter and shorter for McCain to do something about it.

And that leaves us with a map that declares Obama the victor by an incredible 381-157 margin.

Leading me to have to expand the limits on my EV trend chart so it can show the new highs and lows.

Nice.

All of which is really to say that the current snapshot and the current trend look very very good for Obama, but I leave you with a fair warning from tightening skeptic, Chris Bowers:

Now, as a final, less than reassuring note, it should said that this might be something different that the latest downward node in a longstanding pattern of stability and statistical noise. The last five presidential campaigns have tightened toward the end, and even the 2006 midterms tightened up a bit toward the end. It is possible that this is happening again, and even I have theorized that this will result in a final polling margin of 4-5% in favor of Obama. [...]

Further, even if it did tighten up to 4-5% on the eve of the Election, that still means Obama wins comfortably. The Kerry states plus Colorado, Iowa, New Mexico, and Virginia show now signs of wavering, as Obama leads by more than 7.0% in all of them even according to polling conducted over the weekend. That puts Obama at 286 electoral votes where McCain has to make up at least 8.0%...

Tags: Barack Obama, John McCain, tightening (all tags)

Comments

30 Comments

Re: About That Tightening

You mean we're not DOOOOOOOOOMED?

by JDWalley 2008-10-28 01:00AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

Thing is, though, following these ebbs and flows as meaningful for the future is the same principle as technical chart analysis for the stock market. It encompasses all psychology, all thought, all emotion, actions and inactions alike.

For that reason, this IS a tightening, but it is a move inwards towards John McCain, who has been pretty damn awesome on the stump as of late. He and Palin have done nothing but attack while Obama has mostly lain back and pushed hard on early voting. Obama wouldn't have purchased a half-hour of primetime television that pushed back the World Series if he wasn't certain it was worth the risk or if he didn't have something pretty damn good in the works. That is his rebuttal, that is the beginning of his pushback in the last week. My prediction, anyway. A major buy like that is not a defensive act.

by vcalzone 2008-10-28 01:06AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

State polling does sometimes seem to lag the trackers, so McCain will be hoping that the movement in some (not all) the trackers yesterday will continue today and will start to show up in the state polls.

The state polling news yesterday was still really bad for him - not just in battleground states but also Obama racking up gigantic leads in safe blue states: NY, CA, OR, WA.

What I like about Obama's position is that he appears to have solid leads in states totalling 286 EV, so a little bit of movement towards McCain simply isn't going to do it. He needs to reduce Obama's popular vote lead to zero in the course of the coming week if he's really going to have a shot at it, and "natural tightening" isn't going to do that for him. Some major news story which is positive for him and/or negative for Obama will have to break, otherwise I really don't think he has a chance. Needless to say, a fellow Republican Senator being found guilty of corruption isn't exactly the kind of news he needs right now.

The other big problem for McCain is early voting, which locks in Obama's lead. It's most pronounced in Colorado where maybe around 50% are going to vote early. Assuming the ratio among early voters is matching the polls and Obama is up +6%, this would mean that McCain would need a dramatic swing in his favour of around 12% on election day to take the state. This is likely to turn a difficult position into a near-impossible one for him.

by al1 2008-10-28 01:27AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

I don't see Obama laying back at all. He's still attacking McCain and pushing hard, or he would not have been in PA today to try to finally nail it down. Everyone who looked at the demo's of the undecided new that McCain would get the lion's share. But what I do not know is what part of the country they are in. If, for example, they are in the South, it may not matter. If the numbers in PA are correct, there are not enough to swing the state and Obama is still hovering between 49 and 51 nationally. It won't be a blowout and I won't do any victory dances until we officially win, but I would rather be us than them.

by RandyMI 2008-10-28 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

I have a question.  Why has the Democrat been dipping in polls over the weekend this year?  In 2004, it was the precise opposite.  Kerry gained on weekends while Bush lost a few points.  I used to argue that the weekend polls then must have been more accurate, since I was so thoroughly convinced Kerry would win and that the youth vote was undercounted due to limited LAN line access.  

I am surprised that the trend of the Democrat performing better on weekends is inverted this year.  But the bright spot is that if, as in 2004, the weekday polling is more accurate, we should win.  

by BPK80 2008-10-28 02:24AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

It's probably the pattern of older voters: they're usually fairly reliably democratic - this year they're not as much.

by Jess81 2008-10-28 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

Thank you, that's the only explanation I ever came across that makes sense.  Muchas gracias.

by BPK80 2008-10-28 03:47PM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

The same thing happened in 2000. I remember watching Bush rise over the weekends while Gore moved up going into the week.

by RandyMI 2008-10-28 08:28AM | 0 recs
Zogby has a 49-46 night ready to roll off

Today is the last day of a 3 point margin that will roll off. On Saturday night Zogby got a 49-46 reading that still shows up. Note that McCain has not been able to improve his numbers since then. Expect Obama to get a bump in tomorrow's result.

by elrod 2008-10-28 03:07AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

Let the hand-wringing begin. Things are looking great! But worrying is just human nature.

by kitebro 2008-10-28 03:09AM | 0 recs
Zogby

For what it's worth, Zogby says that Obama enjoys an eighteen-point advantage among votes in the bank and that McCain and Obama are tied among likely voters yet to cast their ballots.  

Pollster.com analyst Steve Lomabardo observes:

While McCain has stopped most of his downward slide, he still lags Obama nationally and in key states. The LCG regression analysis shows McCain behind by 7.6 points. If the current trend holds, McCain will lose the election by 8.7 points. To give you an idea of the hole McCain finds himself in, we have not seen a single reputable national poll showing McCain at or above 50% in more than a month.

by Beltway Dem 2008-10-28 03:45AM | 0 recs
Ah, but there will be some fine trolling to be had

Just think of our old friends we haven't seen in a while...

Yah can't psuedo-gloat with Obama having this kind of lead, but as soon as it tightens
OR think about if the AP/GTK poll slips McCain a lead!

Why, it will be a happy troll festival, old friends a come a callin', with snarlin faces and negative poo to fling,
fresh from the monkey cages at NoQuarters and The Conflupunce!

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-28 04:53AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

"and Virginia show now signs of wavering"

should that read

"and Virginia show no signs of wavering"?

by anonevent 2008-10-28 05:24AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

Nope , don't see much tightening going on...

Even if it does , its an insurmountable lead at this point unless something dramatic happens...

And no the release of a distorted tape won't do it...

by lori 2008-10-28 05:25AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

Either way I am planning to buy my first pack of cigarettes since 2005...

by gil44 2008-10-28 05:28AM | 0 recs
What Tightening Will Look Like

This race will tighten, it is the only safe assumption for the Obama campaign to make.  This is because the historical polling models have not been put to the test when powerful new factors like race and a tremendous number of new enthusiastic registered voters are put in play, among others.  If you anticipate the tightening, you can deal with it in a way that avoids a hysterical reaction that might actually contribute to a view that McCain's message of the day is actually resonating with voters.

With that in mind, I think the MyDD analysis should change to examine the following:

1.  The best model we have for how these new factors play out would be the Obama-Clinton primary election.  In state after state, Obama went in with very high polling numbers, but when there was a large number of undecideds, the final result showed a much narrower race, or a Clinton win.  The conclusion you can apply to the Obama McCain race is that undecideds will break about 2:1 for McCain.

2.  The Bradley effect is much discussed, and may not play that large a role in this election.  This is particularly so with the large number of polls that have been taken over such a long span of time.  I personally think that whatever effect may actually exist can be accounted for by the margin of error component of each poll.  

With this in mind, the best way to analyze the tightening is to look at the poll of polls, distribute undecideds 2:1 for McCain, and apply the margin of error to reduce the Obama number.  if the result yields greater than 50% for Obama, i think you can say that he is in a good position.  If less than 50%, he still has work to do.

Bottom line:  tightening will be a function of distribution of undecideds rather than an actual major change in voters who have now made a decision.

by TJ1 2008-10-28 05:51AM | 0 recs
McCain tells Stevens to resign

This might get interesting.  McCain just called for Stevens to resign.   Now let us see what Palin does.

by gavoter 2008-10-28 05:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Obvious

I think it's too late for anyone else to be on the ballot?

They have NO CHOICE but to have their loyalists vote for Stevens, then PROMISE he will resign and Palin will appoint a Republican.

That's convulated, but otherwise what are they asking for?

Let's see what Palin weighs in with.

This is an ACTUAL real issue, so maybe she can stop talking about her favorite consignment store for a few minutes?

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-28 07:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Obvious

But I thought the law changed because of Murkowski?  I thought that a special election would have to be called?

by gavoter 2008-10-28 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Obvious

I have heard that as well, but even that would be better for the Repubs?

A special election clear of any coat-tails Obama may have, especially when they can play the

"Do you want Harry Reid and Pelosi running the country" card?

Think about it.

We are sitting at 59 with Stevens elected, and THAT special election in Alaska determines if the Demos get a 60 seat supermajority!

With Palin back in the state to muck things up?

YIKES!

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-28 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

My guess is this week we will see tightening as we do in every election, including in many of the state polls (and by Friday most of us, including me, will be close to panicking).  By the end of the weekend things will become more stable and Obama will start to pull away again.  He'll win election day going away.  I think this sort of movement is pretty common prior to general elections.

by charlie 2008-10-28 05:54AM | 0 recs
Re: About That Tightening

If there is some tightening occurring, I attribute it mostly to Republicans doing what they do best - reverting to running a lowest common denominator campaign aimed at frightening people into voting for them. This morning, MSNBC showed the Rev. Wright campaign ad that's being aired on TV this week and it's ugly. Obama booking a half hour to speak to the nation tomorrow night is a good idea, as a means to counter and correct all the distortions McCain and Palin, et al, are hurling at him, and to make the policies he's proposing crystal clear.

by phoenixdreamz 2008-10-28 06:31AM | 0 recs
Here's some tightening for you

New Pew Poll out today. Obama up +16.

http://people-press.org/report/465/mccai n-support-declines

by Cleveland John 2008-10-28 06:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Here's some tightening for you

damn, that is a strong condemnation of McCain.   Obama holds steady at 52%, but McCain support drops to 36%.    That is worse than Daddy Bush did in a three-way race in 1992, and people thought that was a low water mark for the GOP.

I know that McCain is not going to get that few votes, but it is nice to see a poll showing him that low.

We need a total repudiation of the GOP, as the British Torries got in 1997.  Of course there needs to be a loyal opposition, but I want to see the GOP shake itself of the Dobson wing of the party.

by gavoter 2008-10-28 07:26AM | 0 recs
OMFG haven't you seen the latest!!!!

Obama is in trouble!  

Have you seen the latest AP/GTK/FreeRepublic/K.Lo National Review Poll, that shows John McCain ahead by 3 in California!

We are so screwed, wow, how can this be happening!!!!

(pssstt..play along, we need some trolls to come back, and help us get distracted...some easy target practice will give us something to fill up the time...)

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-28 07:09AM | 0 recs
I expect things to tighten a bit as we get
close to the election day. I'm still expecting Obama to win confortably electorally. Now can we all be wrong in our projections? Sure. What does this mean...Means more aggressive campaigning, call your friends, neighbors, relatives, anybody who will heed to your thoughts..convince them and take them to the polling station if necessary..
We ought to win this one..the alternative is disastrous.
by louisprandtl 2008-10-28 07:52AM | 0 recs
Barack said it yesterday

We can't let up one day, one minute, one second.

The powers in charge will NOT go easily into that goodnight...

by WashStateBlue 2008-10-28 08:03AM | 0 recs
He is right..No need to be complacent..

Just keep our heads down for now and get the job on hand done..i.e., a GE win for Obama and us...

by louisprandtl 2008-10-28 11:32AM | 0 recs
Polling Error

Mark Blumenthal, AKA the Mystery Pollster, chipped away at poll bias and why polls show contradictory results, and in September 2004 published a comprehensive report here.

The polls inevitability tighten leading up to any election.  No one wants Alf Langdon egg on their face.

by markt 2008-10-28 08:59AM | 0 recs
Today's gallup poll shows narrowing
Likely (traditional) 49:47
Likely  (Expanded)   51:44
by indydem99 2008-10-28 09:38AM | 0 recs

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